© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Totalitarianism Took Over Russia

Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen on how modern Russia took a wrong turn on the road to democracy and its march, now, to totalitarianism.

Reporter Masha Gessen grew up in Russia.  Left young when it was still the Soviet Union.  Came back when there was an opening to democracy, and watched as Russia went the other way – to Vladimir Putin and what she now plainly calls totalitarianism.  Why did that happen?  What does it mean for Russians and for the world?  For the United States in particular?  This hour On Point:  Mashsa Gessen goes deep on how totalitarianism reclaimed Russia. — Tom Ashbrook


Masha Gessen, Russian-American journalist and author. Author of several books, including “The Brothers,” “The Man Without A Face” and “Words Will Break Cement.” Her most recent is “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.” (@mashagessen)

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsday: ‘The Future Is History’ Review: Journalist Masha Gessen Looks At Life For Ordinary Russians Under Putin — “More troubling is the emergence of a fierce Russian nationalist vision, with broad public enthusiasm for plans to retake any country with a major population of ethnic Russians. Most disturbing: the sanctioned harassment and visceral hate of those who are different, especially Russian gays, who have been harassed, beaten, tortured and murdered. Gessen fears that Russian society is dying under Putin — even life expectancy is shorter than in many developing countries. It’s hard to imagine how any creativity, originality or innovation can survive such a societal straitjacket.”

New York Review of Books: Russia: The Conspiracy Trap — “Imagine if the same kind of attention could be trained and sustained on other issues—like it has been on the Muslim travel ban. It would not get rid of Trump, but it might mitigate the damage he is causing. Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.”

The New Yorker: The Gay Men Who Fled Chechnya’s Purge — “L.G.B.T. people have been a prime target of Kremlin propaganda since 2012. That year, Putin returned to the Presidency for a third term, amid mass protests. In response, the Kremlin started queer-baiting the protesters. A succession of cities and, eventually, the federal parliament passed bills banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” Television presenters raged against imaginary homosexual recruiters of Russian children. (At the time, I was living in Russia and was active in protests against the regime and the anti-gay legislation.) Anti-gay violence became so pervasive that a café in central Moscow posted a notice saying that attacks would not be tolerated on the premises.”

Read An Excerpt From “The Future Is History”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Supporters of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rally at Manezh square outside Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 4, 2012.   (Ivan Sekretarev/AP)
Supporters of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rally at Manezh square outside Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 4, 2012. (Ivan Sekretarev/AP)